By Dave Rodney—-
Jamaica Breeze, a popular New York City restaurant that first opened its doors in Queens about six months ago has made an unprecedented decision to allow customers the option to pay in Jamaican dollars.
“Thousands of Jamaicans from the New York area travel back and forth to the island every week”, Duncan, who is also a community activist, explained. “ Most of these travelers bring back unused Jamaican currency and it is doesn’t help anybody when the bills sit in handbags, wallets and closets for long periods.
We want people to have the option of spending those dollars here and I will give back ten percent of the intake to charities in Jamaica, starting with the Shortwood Practising School in St. Andrew”, Duncan further explained. Mike Duncan is from the Shortwood area of St. Andrew.
In a fiercely competitive market where nearly nine out of ten new restaurants in New York go out of business within the first few months, Jamaica Breeze holds the distinction of becoming an overnight smash.
Its success is usually attributed to three main factors: the friendly, unpretentious ‘back-a-yard’ atmosphere, the dazzling variety of pay-by-the-pound daily dishes and, of course, the deliriously delicious food.
The self-serve restaurant offers a choice of 45 to 60 dishes daily and Mike Duncan pointed out that no special permission is required to accept payment in Jamaican dollars as long as city and state taxes are paid on earnings. He said it is quite the norm for businesses near the Canadian and Mexican borders to accept payment in Canadian dollars and Mexican pesos respectively.
In the case of Jamaica Breeze, the exchange rate will be guided by the Bank of Jamaica official rate of exchange. A bank currency conversion fee to exchange the Jamaican dollar intake to US currency with either TD Bank or Chase in New York will also be factored into the rate.
Additionally, the cash registers at the restaurant will be programmed to tabulate and accept the new currency.
News of the Jamaican dollar option has already started to circulate and customers are eager to start making productive use of their Jamaican dollars.
At a Tessanne Chin tweeting party at Jamaica Breeze last night to boost support for the singer on NBC’s The Voice, attendees were already forking out their Jamaican dollars although the new system does not kick in officially until Monday.
“For me, being able to use my Jamaican dollars here is a matter of national pride”, Elaine Bennett, a regular at the restaurant confessed. “ Paying in Jamaican reminds me that my own dollar has value and I will proudly spend it right here at Jamaica Breeze”, she beamed, smiling.